Can you wash your pillows in the washing machine? Yes, but only if it's made from one of these materials, warn experts

The expert-approved guide to pillow washing according to type and filling

Folded white bedding on a white bed
(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Pillows tend to be one of those neglected or forgotten things in our homes when it comes to cleaning and washing. And that’s mostly because we’re not really sure how to properly clean them. Do they need to be dry-cleaned? Or can you wash pillows in the washing machine?

In order to answer this burning question once and for all – and ensure we all give the necessary care and attention to our best pillows - we’ve asked our pillow and cleaning experts to share their take on the matter.

And it turns out that the answer is both yes and no. Whether you can machine wash your pillows depends on their type – so we've created this easy-to-follow guide to whether and how you should wash pillows according to their filling.

Folded white bedding on a white bed

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Can you wash pillows in the washing machine?

You should always start by checking the manufacturer’s instructions on the pillow’s care label.

‘Generally, to determine the best cleaning method for your pillow, you’ll have to know what type of pillow you have and read the label instructions and see if it’s safe to wash in the washing machine,’ says Petya Holevich, Fantastic Services' house cleaning expert and supervisor.

Petya Holevich
Petya Holevich

Petya Holevich is an experienced housecleaning and laundry expert with over 5 years of dedicated time at Fantastic Services. Her journey with the company not only contributed to the maintenance of immaculately clean domestic spaces but has also put her at the forefront of training new teams.

But in case your pillow no longer has the care label and you don’t have access to the manufacturer’s recommendations, there are a few general rules of thumb you can follow when deciding whether your pillow is machine washable.

However if you're really unsure, then a safe option is to have your pillows dry-cleaned. ‘You could wait until all pillows in your home require a clean and take them to a dry cleaner for a bulk clean if you are unsure how to clean them at home,’ suggests Rex Isap, CEO and sleep expert at Happy Beds.

Since that option is on the pricier end of things, here’s a little cheat sheet you can follow when deciding how to best clean your pillows.

A bedroom with a bed with many throw floral throw pillows and floral curtains

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

Can you wash feather and down-filled pillows?

If you’re wondering if you can wash feather pillows in the washing machine, you can. But only on a cold setting and it shouldn’t be done too often as it can damage the feathers over time.

‘With feather-filled pillows, limit washing them to twice a year, at most, as washing them too frequently could cause damage to the feathers,' cautions Rex.

'This is because the feathers inside the pillow have natural oils that can deteriorate when washed, making them more likely to break, harming the pillow structure. If you do use a wash cycle, opt for a delicate low-temperature cycle using a small amount of low-sudsing detergent.'

Folded white bedding on a white bed

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Can you wash memory foam pillows?

On the other hand, memory foam - which makes for some of the best pillows for side sleepers - should never be put in the washing machine and can be cleaned only by hand.

‘Your memory foam pillow should always be cleaned by hand,’ says Tommy-Joe Reardon, head of marketing at Panda London. ‘Excessive water or a washing machine will destroy the memory foam.’

So instead of putting your memory foam pillow in the washing machine where it will likely break apart and crumble, there's another method to plump for. ‘Use a handheld vacuum working with a soft brush using circular motions to pick up dust, debris, and other particles from the memory foam,' advises Tommy-Joe.

'You can sprinkle baking soda across the memory foam. This will help absorb any liquids and eliminate odours inside the memory foam. Lightly pat the baking soda into the memory foam and leave for at least one hour. Then vacuum the memory foam thoroughly to ensure that most of the baking soda has been removed.'

And if you need to perform a deep clean, then spot clean with a laundry detergent mixed in water. ‘When removing stains, we recommend spot cleaning, using a dash of laundry detergent and water in a bucket – do not soak,' says Tommy-Joe. 'We would refer to this as deep cleaning. Only deep clean memory foam if there has been a spill or accident. Use a damp cloth and blot the stained area.'

A bedroom with a large black headboard on a white-dressed bed

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Can you wash pillows with wool filling?

If your pillow comes with a natural filling like wool, then there is not much need to regularly wash it.

‘Wool is a self-cleaning fibre with natural anti-bacterial properties meaning there is no immediate requirement to machine wash it,’ says Chris Tattersall, sleep expert and MD of Woolroom.

‘Unlike other pillows such as down, feather and polyester which are completely colonised by house dust mites after six weeks, wool does not need to be washed at high temperatures to eliminate these allergens due to wool’s naturally hypoallergenic and moisture management capabilities always maintaining a dry state.’

But if you do happen to stain the pillow or spill something on it, then you can wash it in the washing machine.

‘Wool should be washed on a wool or delicate setting as this will dictate the right temperature, agitation and spin speed,' advises Chris. 'If your washing machine does not have a wool cycle, using a gentle cold-water cycle is fine too and ensure the spin speed is 600rpm or less.'

'Choose a mild detergent, preferably a wool detergent to ensure you don’t damage the fibres of your wool bedding. And do not tumble dry your bedding, only hang.'

A bed with a large quilted velvet headboard in a bedroom

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Can you wash synthetic pillows?

The easiest to wash is probably a pillow with a synthetic filling as it can actually be washed in a washing machine without too many precautions.

‘On the other hand, polyester should be washed with one tablespoon of detergent on a gentle cycle with warm water,’ Petya says.

‘Generally, you can use warm or even hot water to wash pillows, but it can shrink the fabric so, to be safe, aim to use cold water, especially when you're washing a new pillow and you're not sure what it's made of.’

Our best-rated machine-washable pillows


Is it worth washing pillows?

Pillows need to be regularly cleaned as they accumulate dust, sweat and natural oils from our skin. And opting for washing them at home, as long as you know how to wash the particular type of your pillow, is far cheaper than taking them to the dry cleaners.

A bedroom with a bed with a large curved velvet headboard and a stack of books on the bedside table

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

How often should you wash your pillows?

If you’re wondering how often you should wash your pillows, Rex clarifies it, ‘You need to wash your pillows three times a year.’

The exceptions are feather and down pillows which should be washed less frequently, about twice a year.

Now you know how to keep your pillows fresh and clean without permanently damaging them.

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.